The ethical protection of genetic information: procedure analysis for psychologists

Kelly Ann Allen, Aideen M. McInerney-Leo, Nicholas Gamble, Gerald Wurf, Christopher Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: New technologies have afforded increased access to genetic testing providing valuable information for individuals and those biologically related. However, the management of such information is challenging for psychologists given the ethical issues that may arise. This paper aims to review the utility of existing ethical standards and current legislation for psychologists when encountering genetic information. Method: Current legislation and guidelines involved in the management of genetic information applicable for psychologists is critically reviewed in light of relevant ethical principles. Results: While knowledge of information that has arisen from genetic testing may guide psychological therapy, intervention, and education, psychologists have a responsibility to uphold their ethical obligations in order to meet the needs of their clients and their families and to prevent harm. Outside the domain of ethically approved human research, and specific guidance for trained genetic counsellors in Australia, ethical guidance on the management of human genetic information is not readily available for psychologists. Conclusions: Technological advances can be expected to continue to present epistemic dilemmas about the use of genetic material. The implications for future psychological practice is discussed. KEY POINTS: : What is already known about this topic: (1) Increased access to genetic testing can provide valuable information for individuals and those biologically related. (2) Genetic testing poses new and significant challenges for psychologists, especially in respect to the ethical issues that can occur. (3) Given that findings from genetic testing may guide therapy goals, interventions, and psychoeducation, psychologists have a responsibility to uphold ethical obligations in order to meet the needs of their clients and their families and to prevent harm. Yet, clear guidelines for ethical obligations regarding the handling of genetic testing are not readily available. What this topic adds: (1) Within the framework of current legislation, the four core ethical standards of beneficence, autonomy, justice, and non-maleficence work together with the APS Code of Ethics and ethical guidelines for psychologists. (2) While the use of genetic information has the potential to affect whole communities, it should be used in such a way that maintains ethical principles, meeting the needs of the individual and family. (3) It is important that ethical guidelines for genetic information in the field of psychology remain cohesive to meet the needs of rapid technological advances and changing legislation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychologist
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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